<br /> Lee Letter: v050

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Charles Carter Lee

My dear Carter

Your letter of 26 Jan – y reached me by the last mail from Vera Cruz. I am glad you feel the same concern at the recall of Genl Scott from the command of the Army; as is felt by that Army generally. In addition to the honour of the country, the great object of the War, in which you & they have a common interest, they, the Army, feel that their safety is at stake. I trust however that there is no cause for anxiety on either head. The prospect of peace seems to be increasing, & no great calamity can happen in our evacuation of the country. You speak of “the desertions in the Army” & ask my opinion as to who is to blame for “these shameful occurrences.” Aside from the indelicacy, if not impropriety, of a subordinate expressing his opinion of the conduct of his superiors, which would naturally be coloured by his feelings & prejudices, this matter will probably be subjected to an official investigation, in which I hope the truth will be elicited & every one can then make up their own opinion. The Court of Inquiry ordered by the President has already had two sessions. But I know of no “dissentions in the Army” though no one can regret more than I do, the occurrences which have given rise to such a belief. Genl Scott, for what he considered a breach of discipline reluctantly preferred charges against three officers under his command, & requested the President to order a Court Martial for their trial. This is the common course of the Service, when the comm – d officer presents the charges, & is usually followed by the ordering of the court. If the accused is convicted of misconduct, he is punished. If not, acquitted. Then the Superior can properly be held to account for any act of oppression or misconduct on his part. In this instance the appeal of the accused from the accusation of their commander, seems to have had precedence & the latter with two of the former are brought before the same court to have their conduct investigated. I wish that the President had have dismissed the subject altogether, rather than to have in the face of the enemy, & at an important period of the campaign exhibited the embarrassed state of our descipline & afforded the opportunity for mutual recrimination of the parties & their friends. Indeed if the case is graver than I am aware of, & could not have been postponed until the termination of active operations, I think it would have been better for the Service & Country to have recalled home all the parties; there to await their trial when the exigencies of the Service permitted. But the deed is now done. We have only to endeavour to shape it so that it shall work the least inquiry. My feelings of friendship for those of the parties does not prevent my seeing the errors that each has committed. Those who are acquainted with Genl Worth will tell you how difficult it is for him to avoid a rupture with his comman – d officer. As Commandant of cadets, he quarreled with Col Thayer. At the school of practice at Old Point, with Col: House & Col Eustis. On the Rio Grande with Genl Taylor, At Puebla with Genl Scott. From the latter he could afford to bear much, as I think it will be conceded that he owes his Military position to him. Col: Duncan, a good officer, from friendly or other feelings towards Genl Worth, in his letter which was published in the U. States, made no doubt unintentionally, many misstatements, calculated to favour Genl W. & himself to the prejudice of others. When this letter with another was commented on in Genl Orders by Genl Scott, I thought too harshly, his published acknowledgement of the authorship, was disrespectful, if not insubordinate. It was his duty to acknowledge the authorship, but it should have been by letter to the Adjt Genl, & not by a public communication in a tone of defiance in the papers. Military discipline requires subordination of ones feelings as well as conduct & those whose duty it is to preserve it, cannot be too cautious how they encourage the exhibition of it in subordinates against their superiours. It is sapping the foundation of all military organization. I sat down to be very moderate, but you see I have been unusually led into discussion. Recollect however it is only for yourself. I read a portion of your letter to Genl Scott. He was much pleased with your interest & anxiety for his welfare & sent in return his kindest regards. I have done all in my power to allay the feelings of the parties from the first, but without success. I knew it was a contest in which neither of them had anything to gain, & the Service & perhaps the Country much to lose. The latter is always first in my thoughts & efforts & the feelings & interests of individuals should be sacrificed to its good. But it is difficult to get men to act on this principle. You must not think that I consider I have suffered any neglect for my slight services in the line of my duty. The consciousness of having endeavoured to perform that duty is the only satisfaction I expected or coveted. The friendship & kind consideration of my brother officers, is a constant source of unmixed pleasure. This I have always enjoyed & it is this that has so far retained me in the service. I think however if I return, I shall make a strong effort to leave it. My children require more attention than I have ever yet been able to devote to them. I shall have been in the Pub. Service nearly 20 years. It has had my best days & energies. A young family has some claims. And there is my Sister Lucy too; that deserves much attention. I have no doubt she will have a little nephew for me. Tell her I have left the name of Henry for her. But I can’t defer my claims to it much longer. I have talked a good deal of her to her cousin Dr Kain of the Navy. He is here at present. We made a little trip together to the Silver mines of Real del Monte, 63 miles distant. His health is not very robust & he talks of returning by the first opportunity to the U. S. I am very glad to hear of Wms Wickhams marriage. I learn from Dr. K. that his wife is a sweet lady. I hope she will be a great comfort to dear Cousin Anne. I do not know why she has been so constantly in my thoughts since I have been in this country. Formerly I embraced her with my other friends in her region. But now when my thoughts revert to Virginia, she is always uppermost, & her sweet smile is as plain before me as is the paper on which I write. Give much love to her whenever you see her & my warmest sympathy. Offer also my congratulations to Wms & kind regards to my new cousin. In messages of love I always include, dear Uncle Wms little Charlotte & all at Shirley. I am very glad to hear of Bernards determination to reserve his energies. Their reservation will afford him scarcely less pleasure than his friends. His determination is all that is necessary. I wish I could assist him to apply them in the way he wishes. There is no employment for him here out of the Army. If he could get appointed in any of the new Regts: it might suit him. But there is no occupation out of the Military, & except in the Dr Mrs or Comm – r Dept: such as clerks, forage masters, wagon masters etc, none of which would suit his taste or pleasure. The Congress of Mexico is awaiting the decision of our Government upon their project of a treaty, before considering it. From present indications, as soon as it is rec – d here, it will be taken up by them. They will not touch it until it is ratified by us. Then a quorum will immediately assemble at Queretaro. Until then they will not meet, as they say they will have nothing to do. Unless our differences etc at home, & the altered condition of our Army, shall have killed it here, it will be approved by them. Too late I fear for the Army; to leave the Country before the season of the <boruito>.1 That will be a grievous thing to me. Give much love to sister Lucy. Tell her to think of me sometimes & to know that I am constantly thinking of her. I have heard from M. & the children as late as the 22 of Feb – y. Marshall & Childe were at A – Remember me to all friends –

23 March.2 There was a prospect of the matters before the Court being passed over, when they last adjourned. But the angry passions of men, & the desire to convict. Pillow, I fear has been to work in the mean time in the Army’s you will see by the papers I send you of this date that Pillow’s case is regularly entered on. I wish the whole matter could have been stopped. You know in this kind of controversy our good Genl is left to forget injure himself. His friends at home must take care of his reputation

Very truly

R E Lee


Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

The envelope with this letter is addressed “Charles Carter Lee, Esqr, Counsellor at Law, Richmond, Virginia, U.S. America.” The return address is “City of Mexico, 24 March 1848.” The number “10” is stamped on the envelope.

1 The spelling may be “boruito” or “bovuito.” Lee may have intended it to mean, “season of the tuna.”

2 This paragraph and the closing were written perpendicularly on the first page and over some of the script.